Q. What are dental implants?
Dental implants are a replacement for the root or roots of a tooth. They are made of titanium, which is lightweight, strong and biocompatible material. Like tooth roots, dental implants are secured in the jawbone. Implants and their attached crowns look and function much like real teeth and can make a great alternative to dentures and bridges. A dental implant can replace one or several missing teeth. In some cases, an entire set of artificial teeth can be carried on dental implants.
Instead of an artificial tooth, an implant can also be fitted with special clips or attachments that firmly hold an existing denture in position which is called an over denture. The aim is to improve the stability of the denture to minimize as much movement of the denture as possible.
Q. What are the benefits of having dental implants?
- Help to withstand greater bite pressures with dentures
- Prevent bone loss in the jaw which may also reduce the risk of adjacent natural teeth becoming loose
- Help maintain the jawbone’s shape and density, therefore supporting the facial skeleton and soft tissue structures
- Unlike bridges, do not require the cutting and reshaping of neighbouring healthy teeth
- Are usually more comfortable than dentures
Q. How long will my implant last?
A dental implant is designed to last for many years, but poor oral hygiene can shorten its lifespan. Good oral hygiene is crucial. Like real teeth, artificial teeth that are not regularly brushed and flossed can develop deposits (plaque and calculus) that eventually lead to problems such as bleeding gums, loss of bone, infection and pain.
Properly maintained implants that are anchored by sufficient bone can last for many years, although repairs or replacement may be expected like any other dental appliance.
Although your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth and gums and evaluate bone density and quantity which may involve X-rays and computer tomography scans (CT scans) they cannot guarantee that the implant surgery will be successful. About one implant in every 20 fails to integrate with the bone or comes loose over time.
Q. Am I a suitable candidate for implants?
As a general rule, implants are not recommended for the following-
- Bone loss- A patient who lacks sufficient jawbone may not be suitable for implants. In many patients, bone replacement techniques such as grafting can be used to rebuild enough bone for implant placement
- Age- Children younger than 17 years are usually not considered suitable for implants because their bones are still growing. Otherwise, age is generally not a restriction.
- Pregnancy- general anaesthesia (if needed) and other medications may risk the unborn baby’s health in some cases.
- Smoking- Smoking impairs healing and may cause implants to fail as it prevents the implant to integrate with the bone. It may also over time, cause a breakdown in the integration between the implant and the bone.
- Certain medical conditions- illnesses such as uncontrolled diabetes increase the risk of complications, including infection and delayed healing.
- Alcohol or drug abuse- the patient may have dietary problems, be unable to follow the dentist’s instructions or fail to maintain proper oral hygiene.
- Psychological illness- the patient may be unable to follow the dentist’s instructions
Q. What do I need to do before considering doing an implant?
Dental health problems such as decay or gum disease usually need to be treated before your implant treatment commences. This is to ensure the longevity of your dental implant. Another dental problem which needs to be assessed is grinding, also known as bruxism. Bruxing can flatten teeth, chip tooth enamel and break fillings. Most bruxing occurs at night and can be managed with the use of a special night guard or splint to avoid causing damage to the natural teeth, crowns, bridges and implants.
Q. What does the implant procedure involve?
In most cases, the dental implant procedure involves three separate treatment stages:
- Insertion of the implant into the bone
- Insertion of the abutment (or connector) on the implant
- Attachment of the artificial tooth (crown) to the abutment or connector
Generally the whole implant procedure process takes three months to one year depending on the quality of the bone, number of implants placed, functional demand of the tooth replaced or bone grafting procedure if required. Although some implant procedures from start to finish may be finished in a single visit, not everybody is a suitable candidate for the same.
Q. So now the implant is done, what should I expect?
Crowns and implants look and feel a bit different to your own teeth. Biting and chewing will feel different, and it may take time to get used to the new sensations. Although well-maintained dental implants are considered to be for life, it is crucial you see your dentist for regular dental check-ups and maintenance to keep your implant crown in good repair. Neglecting to floss and brush, is a leading cause of implant failure.
Note: The aim of this general information is to educate the reader about Dental Implants and may not essentially contain all aspects of the treatment. It would be beneficial to see us for a consultation to discuss the procedure and all of the associated complications.
Give us a call on (03) 5821 2388 to book an appointment and our dentist will be more than happy to answer all of your concerns.